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Newsom signs bill co-authored by Bruins to help build affordable teacher housing

(Isabella Lee/Illustrations director) Photo credit: Isabella Lee

By Anna Gregory

Nov. 8, 2022 9:56 p.m.

A UCLA team of architecture department staff and doctoral students co-authored a housing bill recently signed into law that aims to increase affordable housing for K-12 school staff.

Assembly Bill 2295, signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 28, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2024. It allows housing for school staff to be built on unused K-12 school property, said Dana Cuff, a professor of architecture and urban design and the director of cityLAB, who led the team of UCLA and University of California Berkeley researchers that worked on the bill.

Cuff added that there are at least 75,000 acres of unused school land in California with potential for new housing. This amounts to as many as 2.3 million units of housing statewide, according to UCLA Architecture and Urban Design.

AB 2295 will build off the 2016 Teacher Housing Act, which specified that housing units must be built within nine years and gain consent from three consecutive school boards, Cuff said. The new bill will remove organizational barriers that accompany long timelines, and it plans to cut the building time in half, she added.

The bill will help middle-class people in addition to lower-income families, said Emmanuel Proussaloglou, an architecture and urban design graduate student who worked on the project.

“We sort of cover the super wealthy and, to some degree, super, super poor with affordable housing, but there’s kind of a band in the middle that doesn’t get housing,” Proussaloglou said. “Teachers are in this band.”

He added that many teachers and school staff often have to live far away from the district they work in to be able to afford housing. New housing complexes that are built in California often consist of single-family homes or expensive multi-unit buildings, which often do not offer affordable housing, Proussaloglou added.

Akana Jayewardene, a recent architecture and urban design doctoral alumnus and former member of UCLA cityLAB, said the initial phase of the research was the most challenging.

The research process started with the analysis of various case studies from Colorado, North Carolina and California to see what previous policy has and has not worked, Proussaloglou said. He added that the next step was to conduct more substantive research on the topic of affordable housing projects and try to figure out the timeline of development. There were no concrete findings previous to the analysis of these case studies.

“We went into the research process hoping to uncover some kind of trend, and then not being able to find that because it didn’t exist was pretty challenging,” Jayewardene added in an emailed statement.

The current phase of the project will begin to implement some of the building projects in participating districts, Proussaloglou said. UCLA cityLAB also established the Education Workforce Housing Academy to guide school districts through the process, he added.

Cuff added that they will train school board members to plan and supervise construction of affordable housing, which will be a rewarding and interactive experience.

Jayewardene said being a part of research that school districts can use to their advantage to build affordable housing felt very rewarding and impactful.

“It feels really great to have been able to contribute to something that, a few years down the line, might help alleviate some of those difficulties,” Jayewardene added.

UCLA Architecture and cityLAB were constantly designing test sites and seeing what would succeed in school districts, Cuff said. Because of the existing housing act, the project already had support but lacked implementation and failed to produce tangible results, she added.

“​​The biggest victory of all will be when some of these districts that were training actually break ground and their teachers get an affordable apartment,” Cuff said. “You’re part of a larger time frame and group of students than you’re even aware of, but the work really makes a difference.”

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